• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 27 comments on As Trump Supporters Storm Capitol, BU Historian Answers: How Worried Should Americans Be?

  1. I believe Donald Trump accomplished a great deal while president, even while being faced with a complete lack of cooperation from Democrats.



    1. He accomplished what? And for who? America is comprised of more than just Republicans and democrats. When we take a position on what potus accomplished what lense are we looking through when we make those statements….and what are our blind spots or bias? What do we believe a president us suppose to do or represent and facilitate as the leader? What values? If we are considering these things and then assess this potus what it will reflect are our own beliefs..truth be told!

    2. Most of what Trump accomplished during his presidency was horrible, as were most of his failures (such as his failure to lead the country on COVID). One of those horrible “accomplishments” was his coddling, approval, and unleashing of the anti-democratic right-wing conspiracy and racist forces that stormed the Capitol and other government buildings (e.g., Michigan), marched through Charlottesville, and have threatened the life of elected officials.

  2. Which democratic country and which leader did not fail during COVID?
    Maybe we should a take a better look at our overpriced and underperforming healthcare system?

    1. Konrad

      I find that if one makes a comment based on actual facts rather than on general conjecture, one gets a much clearer and more truthful view of the topic they wish to discuss.

      On your initial comment let’s start with these 4.
      1-Australia (35 deaths per 100,000),
      2-Canada (445 deaths per 100,000),
      3-Denmark (250 deaths per 100,000),
      4-Japan (29 deaths per100,000) compared with
      -USA. (1,180 deaths per 100,000 citizens)

      The leadership of these countries took decisive action early on and continued to lead and make their citizens safety a priority. They did it with political and moral courage.

      Since the USA has 4.25% of the world population and over 19% of worldwide COVID deaths, with a little research one might be able to find a few more countries that have fared better than the USA.

      I Did find that every single healthcare worker I talked to were overworked and their facilities overwhelmed by the number of covid cases that continued coming to their facilities daily. These are people who have worked tirelessly for up to 12 hours a day for 6 and 7 days a week often at deadly peril to themselves and their families.

      For someone to classify them as underperforming is both shameful and disgusting


  3. I really don’t understand all the fuss about protestors going to the Capitol building. They were mostly peaceful and did not spray paint or set fires. I don’t think it was a “coup attempt.” If there had been large numbers of armed people going in shooting, that would have been upsetting.
    Protestors have trespassed, disrupted proceedings, unfurled banners, and been arrested before – most recently during the Kavanaugh hearings. In Wisconsin, leftest protestors took over the statehouse for three weeks. I understand the Capitol is sacred to those who worship politics but we have been watching sacred sites getting trashed for the last ten months.

    If President Trump is responsible for the protestors at the Capitol, who is responsible for the riots of the last ten months. Pelosi? Kamala Harris? Biden? Dozens were killed, thousands were injured, and there were billions of dollars in damage. Where do we send the bill?

    Also, the legislators saw mostly peaceful protestors and wet their pants. If any good comes from this it might be that those in Congress realize what millions of Americans have been living with for months.

    1. If you don’t understand all the fuss then you have absolutely no understanding of what just happened. And your version of recent history needs a little adjusting. Dozens killed? Thousands injured? Billions of dollars in damage? You need to check your “facts”. What happened on Jan. 6 has no comparison to anything of the last ten months, which were 99% peaceful protests put down by overbearing federal law enforcement using excessive brutality on many of those who just wanted to send a message: “I can’t breathe!”.

    2. Yes, the people throwing chemicals and boards at the Capitol Police and beating them with their own riot shields, carrying zip ties, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs, setting up gallows, stealing art and writing “Murder the Media” on doors were certainly “peaceful”.

    3. Mr. Welsh,
      Apparently you were not paying attention, or even watching any live broadcast as this outrageous event was unfolding. May I remind you that as of today 6 people have died as a direct result of this action. And further I suggest you look at any of the large newspapers, and view the carnage left behind for yourself before dismissing it as “peaceful” and please do note the spray painted graffiti besides the obvious destruction.

      Your comment and assessment of what happened is absurd, and you are just as delusional as Trump and his cult if you truly believe what you have written.

    4. “Mostly peaceful?” Peaceful is not destroying and looting property, setting up a scaffold with a noose, and defiling offices with blood, urine, and feces. Yes. They did that. They were not peaceful. They were not protesting. They were thugs threatening elected officials, defacing a historic building, and attempting to halt the orderly process of government.

    5. Stop saying those thugs are peaceful, they pushed the police off, broke windows, and they had confederate flags with signs like “this is our 1776.” I’m sick of people excusing their behavior and when they have absolutely no right to disturb the peace. They should all be arrested period.

    6. The protest wasn’t peaceful. In fact there were fires, attacks on the police with pepper spray, vandalism, unlawful trespass, a successful attempt to interrupt a democratic process, and with some an attempt (thankfully failed) to kidnap electeds. Don’t take my word for it – just read the news, review the pictures and videos of the days activities. Many in the mob were hate-filled alt-right extremists who had no intent to be peaceful.
      Trying to minimize the extent of the violence to the Capitol building and to America’s democratic process is not only disingenuous but will only encourage more of this anti-democratic extremism.
      Decent Americans shouldn’t stand by and say it’s okay for these type of activities to take place. That’s what a lot of Germans did during the rise of Hitler and his Nazi forces. We saw where that went.

    7. Sir, What I don’t understand is how you graduated high school with such incompetence in checking your sources before making unsubstantiated and/or broad brush claims.

      Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” left more behind in critical thinking and basic common sense than ever before in compulsory education.

      I challenge you to read through the entire Wikipedia page on all the deaths associated with the protests, instigated riots and property damage of the “previous 10 months.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_and_controversies_during_the_George_Floyd_protests

      Afterwards, I wonder if you’ll tap into your intellectual capacity and moral compass to discern how you came to your original fallacious claims? Hmmm, perhaps you’ve been manipulated by right wing fear-mongering media monsters, namely Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, Briebart, and their malignant narcissist master, Trump who all played you for a fool.

  4. This was a stark moment in our shared history. I am fully aware there have been other riots this year and beforehand, but this has truly left a scar. I am worried that those responsible will not be held accountable. I am hopeful those recently elected will behave better than we have seen in this past session, by actually adhering to the institutions they themselves are carrying on. I worry that other countries may see this as an opportunity as well to loosen ties with the US or much worse. We need to instill in our education system and populace a value for the institutions that make this land free and full of opportunity. I hope that once this passes, we will have learned something of value and then we can begin to move forward once more.

    1. So there is a reason why there are terms such as “sedition” “insurrection” “treason.” I wish people would read the Constitution, not just the 2nd Amendment out of context from Article 2 and Article 3. America was born out of revolution, but no one has that right under the Constitution! The Constitution does 4 things- 1)- it is the Supreme law of the land, 2). It establishes the Central government, the Federal Government of The United States, 3). It describes how that government is to work and 4) it defends itself, with its courts and military from tyrants, despots, and enemies foreign and domestic by repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections! So that is why the breaching of the Capitol is fundamentally different from any other protests, riots, marches, etc. if you don’t like the Government you can change it- the Constitution gives you to ways: 1)-Amendments or 2). Another Constitutional Convention where you can re-write the whole thing! But short of that- sorry you don’t have that right! Now if you want to appeal to a higher calling, write a document have someone with a nice fancy signature sign it and off you go. If your successful, then you join the ranks of history next to Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Hancock and Franklin and become Patriots! If you’re not, then you are marked like Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and are forever a Traitor! Understand history and our place in it. Preserve, protect and defend.

  5. Thank you, Mr Brown, for the historian’s perspective.

    Particularly the insight that this is “the middle” of something.
    It’s not like everyone had perfect faith in our elections and respect for our presidents. The 2000 election was contested in court, and for years pundits would insist, or just joke, that Gore was president. Bush jr was nearly impeached. Obama had birthers. Trump’s presidency was assailed from the beginning and he was actually impeached.
    Respect for law & order seems to have long been declining, even as crime rates declined as the population ages, and protests have grown more and more aggressive in their tactics. Black bloc tactics, for instance, have been used more and more, and ‘occupy’ tactics have grown, too.
    This latest riot started like so many last year, with a peaceful rally that ended, as planned but was followed by trespassing, vandalism, and violence. Maybe the rioters even thought they’d be treated like those in Portland, face only restrained use of less-lethal force and escape prosecution of any sort.

    Looked at thoughtfully, it was only incrementally a little worse than what came before. The Capitol instead of a police precinct or state or local government building. A rioter actually shot & killed by police.

  6. Wasn’t Trump’s sister dead (sic) right with her analyses and forecasts in her biography published a few moons ago?

    Rather than calling last Wednesday an “insurrection”, wouldn’t a better term be a “failed revolution”? I define “revolution” as anything akin to 14th July 1789 at the Bastille – and trust that this definition is correct?

    Last Wednesday was hardcore, similar to a frontline combat situ: American Democracy was tested and survived – this time at least?

  7. January 6, 2021 and Hope

    While the ugliness, ignorance and violence on January 6 has long been part of the American experience, we should make no mistake that the vile mob behavior was ignited by a deeply disturbed man, enabled by a failed political party who long ago jettisoned its conservative principles in favor of a “just win baby” philosophy and an “end justify the means” tactics; one who has been fanning our country’s dark side for decades. Trump lit the fuse years ago with his inflammatory rhetoric about the Central Park 5, his outlandish birther movement challenging Obama’s citizenship, his attacks on immigrants and Muslims and frankly his demonization of anybody, organization, or institution who was not with him. He used his 2016 campaign and his presidency to poor rocket fuel on feelings of hate and division, and like all dictators and monarchs believes that he and the state are one and the same.

    I see there being three groups right now. The first has always understood the above, knowing that Trump has a long history of deceit and self-promotion: that a zebra does not change its stripes; and that Wednesday, while horrifying and historic, was not an entirely surprising coda to a failed presidency.

    There is another group of who are die hard Trump supporters. For them, no facts will move them off their perch of Trump idolization; they have a certainty in their views that is no different from those held by Americans in the late 1690s who just knew that there are witches and they need to be burned at the stake; segregationists who would rather secede from the country then grant African Americans the dignity and decency let alone rights that all humans deserve; or the anti-suffragettes who combatted affording women the right to vote (and for all I know believe aliens landed at Roswell, the moon landing was faked and that Copernicus is wrong).

    For instance, Trump’s serial bankruptcies left working class people high and dry; he defrauded students of Trump University who were looking to better themselves: he violated campaign finance laws to cover up his serial adultery (at a time when his third wife was pregnant); he embraced a foreign adversary to support his presidential ambitions (and obstructed an authorized investigation, fired those who participated in it and persistently rejected the findings of our intelligence agencies and the US Senate- and, yes, once and for all, Putin interfered with the election and he wanted Trump to win); he pressured a fledgling democracy and our ally who is in a fight for its life with Russia to fabricate dirt on his expected opposition for the presidency; he lied about a pandemic that cost thousands of lives to advance his own blind ambition; he has repeatedly lied that he lost the 2020 election (one deemed by multiple state and federal election officials to be the most secure and transparent in our history); he has pressured election officials in multiple states to fake the results; and he has publicly skewered them for not doing so (putting their lives at risk). I know: none of that matters to them. Of course, they are entitled to their views (such as they are) but not advocating them through violence and insurrection.

    There is a third group though who voted for Trump because you are Republican and/or you agreed with some of his policies, whether cutting taxes, slashing regulations, “building the wall” as a way to curtail illegal immigration; or you are religiously motivated and you like all the conservative judges appointed by his administration, his stated stand against abortion, his seeming support for Christianity and Israel.

    For this group, the opportunity going forward from an attempted coup instigated by a mentally unstable person is the recognition that the character of those who occupy elective office, especially the highest office in the land, is paramount. The Founding Fathers were deeply influenced by Cicero and other ancient Romans who placed a premium on virtue in their civic lives, which meant working for the public good. While they understood that if men were angels government would not be necessary, they also knew that no system of checks and balances could cover for a fatal flaw in character.

    Our country, its systems of check and balances and our national character have been sorely tested over the last four years. The center held, but what if we had had another four years of this madman? Without character, without the values, temperament, judgement and wisdom to lead this great nation all else is a mirage. At the end of the 1995 film the American President the fictional president Andrew Shepard, played by Michael Douglas, delivers a riveting speech on this very topic. If you have not seen it is worthwhile. If you have, it is, especially now, worth re-watching.

    While Wednesday January 6, 2021, a day like December 7, 1941, which in the words of President Roosevelt, will live in infamy, it is also an opportunity – both a catalyst to examine the criticality of our values and those of our leaders, and to remember that there is far more that unites us.

    Yes, I am a realist and I understand that the forces of ignorance, hate and division who wrap themselves in the flag and falsely claim they are patriots will not be extinguished by our shared shock, anger, deep sadness and embarrassment about Insurrection Day. However, I am still optimistic because the American experiment over the long arc of our history has been severely tested in the past (Civil War, Depressions, WWII, Watergate, 911, Trump) and we have risen to the challenge; we have learned from our mistakes and we have progressed. I am encouraged because we elected values led, competent people at the top of the Federal government. But it goes deeper than that, it goes to fundamental decency of humans generally and Americans in particular. We have the power, guided by our values of respect, responsibility compassion, honest and fairness, to grow from this and form that more perfect union. We just need to remember that and require of it from ourselves, each other and those we elect to serve us.

  8. It wasn’t a coup attempt, but it was most certainly an insurrection. And there were plenty of well-armed people among them, including armed guys with zip tie handcuffs who likely hoped to take hostages or worse. Why else would they have those zip tie cuffs?

    Comparing this with the Wisconsin statehouse occupation in 2011, if that’s what you are referring to, is a false comparison. There were clear differences between this deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol intended to overturn a presedential election and the protests at the state Capitol in Wisconsin. In the Wisconsin occupation there were no deaths, no armed civilians, no overt threat to forcibly dislodge the legitimately elected representatives, no major vandalism. This mob at the Capitol caused death, destruction, and mayhem in the seat of our government. Blood and feces smeared on statues and walls of the US Capitol building is a lot worse than spraying paint, if you ask me. More than 50 Capitol and DC police were injured, and at least five people died, including one officer. It’s the difference between an act of civil disobedience in Wisconsin and an act of outright insurrection and terror in DC.

    As for the BLM protests and unrest this summer, I don’t support any of that violence either, but you cannot show me any footage of a democrat leader calling for “trial by combat” the way Rudy Giuliani did when he helped Trump fire up this mob. You cannot show me an elected democrat whipping an angry mob into a frenzy to invade the seat of our government and take it by force. That is what Trump and his henchmen did. Yes, there were antifa jerks and other thugs crossing lines this summer, but not at the behest of elected officials. In fact, USA Today points out the fact that “Multiple high-profile Democrats have spoken out against violence at Black Lives Matter protests…”

    Your whataboutism does not wash. As terrible as looting and property destruction are, there’s a significant difference between looting a Home Goods store or burning down an unoccupied Wendy’s and invading the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of a presidential election. Neither of these are okay, but the latter is an act of insurrection meant to destroy the foundations of our Republic.

  9. There is a conspiracy of disinformation fed to the uneducated masses and trump is only the symptom. I fear the lockstep republicans and their ‘low’ white base of support whose unifying ideology is white nationalism. BU as an educational institution must help make reality with critical thinking a goal, give black and brown people a break and realize a large part of this country has been drinking Kool-aid for longer than 4 years. trump only recognized his bases’ button to push…racism.

    The sites spreading the pro-trump lies about election, pedophiles, antifa (we SHOULD be wary of facists) and BLM, etc need to be shut down.

  10. Unfortunately, Mr. Brown did not mention the mountain of evidence pointing to election fraud. There are many other reasons why many Americans are angry with the lawmakers and their enforcers. Look at all the trigger-happy police who have no respect for human life. Their favorite policy is Comply or Die which is a Nazi-Totalitarian policy. There are probably more SWAT goons kicking down the doors of peaceful families in this country today than there were in National Socialist Germany. How about the current foreign policy of Full Spectrum Domination and the policy of slaughtering poor people who live in foreign countries. Look at the so-called “war on drugs” which is, in fact, a war that is being waged against Americans and their freedoms. Human beings, not drugs, are being killed, assaulted, robbed, and arrested by the millions. Who are those humans? Mainly the poor and powerless. By the way, when I was at BU, my fellow students occupied some buildings in order to protest the mass murdering of poor people in Southeast Asia. Good for them.

    Rick Eramian CLA 68

  11. On the subject of ‘Civil Disobedience’, may I introduce the author to some quotations by a few like minded–all be they superior intellect–on the discourse:

    “…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…” Thomas Jefferson

    The government is not just a little corrupt or unjust in the course of doing its otherwise-important work, but in fact the government is primarily an agent of corruption and injustice. Because of this, it is “not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize”.
    Henry David Thoreau

    “Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.” [here, ‘evil’ refers to corrupt government] Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “The question here is not just about one of the numerous individual cases in the struggle between a truth powerless to act and a power that has become the enemy of truth. It is really a question of the absolutely concrete demonstration of the point at which this struggle at any moment becomes man’s duty as man….”
    Martin Buber

    With respect to the author’s opinion that President Trump will likely be regarded as one of our worst presidents ever, I’m only too pleased to point out to him that, thankfully, his unqualified opinion will have little–if any–bearing upon that assessment of history. I do, however, wish to convey that he may be eminently qualified to judge the failed administrations of Obama and Biden.

  12. I am shocked and amazed that a professor of History, one who directs the directs the Institute for American Political History, would use an analogy that is factually incorrect. When asked if the the violence at the Capital was a coup Schulman responded “A better term might be a putsch, to use the term for the Nazis’ rise to power before World War II.”

    In German a putsch is a violent attempt to overthrow a government.

    Many students of German History especially those like myself who took many a course German political history at BU would be quick to point out that the National Socialist Workers Party (NAZI party) did not rise to power as the result of a putsch. The 1923 Beer Hall Putsch that the Nazi’s provoked in Munich was rudderless and without a clearly defined goal. It was a regional event aimed loosely at Munich’s local government and its dictatorial actions in suppressing political activity. It was quickly crushed.

    Hitler was jailed for this attempt at a violent takeover of government, Once released from jail, Hitler redirected his focus towards obtaining power legally rather than by revolution or force, and accordingly changed his tactics concentrating on the ballot box.

    In the 1930’s with the Weimar Republic failing and political chaos everywhere, President Hindenburg twice suspended/dissolved the Reichstag in 1932. It was from this that the compromise bringing Hitler to power arose.

    In 1933 through a series of complicated negotiations, ex-Chancellor Franz von Papen, backed by prominent German businessmen and the conservative German National People’s Party (DNVP), convinced German Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, with the understanding that von Papen as vice-chancellor and other non-Nazis in key government positions would contain and temper Hitler’s more brutal tendencies.

    My point here is simple Schulman’s analogy is wrong and from the looks of it his understanding of world history is completely wrong on something so basic that it is shocking. This man is teaching students both U.S. History and U.S. Political history, if he is wrong on this what else is is he teaching that is factually and easily proven incorrect to impressionable students?

    The violence at the Capital was unacceptable, but unfortunately we have had a year filled with political violence condoned and fostered by the media and politicians on both sides of the aisle using it to their every advantage. It is galling when one group of politicians suddenly realize and remember political violence is wrong after spending an entire Summer playing off it. Hypocrisy of this magnitude does not go unnoticed.

    I see the events at the Capital as a political protest demonstration that ended violently, not some highly organized attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government. Perhaps it is time for cooler heads to prevail but unfortunately what we have for leadership in Washington does not see it that way.

  13. Has Professor Nina Silber revised her view on the likelihood of civil war in America? re BU today on March 27th 2019.The reason it will happen is because we all sit down and say to ourselves – well what happens in North Korea or Russia cannot happen here, because…”we are better human beings than those people?”. The real question is – in what ways?

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